“political miscommunication and the lack of consistency”

over key energy reforms for impeding future investment in the UK. We cannot allow that situation to continue. Without a sense of purpose, the upgrade in energy infrastructure that we need in this country will not happen as quickly and might well cost more, and we will be ever more at the mercy of global commodity prices than we would be with a much more balanced and diverse energy mix that many of us, although not all who have taken part in the debate, see as very important.

As many hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Test and for Ynys Môn and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Dan Byles) made clear, there are gaps and omissions in the Bill. There are not yet measures on demand reduction, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher), my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) and the hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) mentioned. There is not yet any fulfilment of the Prime Minister’s promise of a few weeks ago on prices and not yet, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) and many others observed, a clear 2030 target for the decarbonisation of the power sector.

All those things, I contend, are required to stimulate the necessary investment. As the Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee said earlier this week:

“Setting a target for emissions from electricity generation as recommended by the Climate Change Committee has been put off until 2016, prolonging the political and regulatory uncertainty that is killing investment.”

That issue is at the heart of our reasoned and reasonable amendment, and it is an issue for which the Secretary of State and his Cabinet colleague the Chief Secretary to the Treasury argued vehemently less than three months ago at their party conference. We all know how important consistency is to the Liberal Democrats; we also know the perils of inconsistency and the need to ensure that we move towards a decarbonisation target.

As one industry chief executive remarked to me just last week, targets help investors see the direction of travel, like the star shining over Bethlehem that showed

19 Dec 2012 : Column 955

the direction of travel for the three wise men. As I look at the ministerial Bench this evening, I indeed see three men; given the charitable time of year, I will wait until Third Reading to judge their wisdom.

Also missing from the Bill are measures to support the type of co-operative and community energy about which my hon. Friends the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith and for Cardiff South and Penarth spoke so eloquently, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed), with his experience of what happened in Brixton. Members will be aware that his predecessor was one of the most thoughtful and serious contributors to energy debates in the House; in this, as in many other respects, he has a worthy successor.

The Secretary of State recently said that he wanted nothing less than a community energy revolution. I say to him that the Bill is an opportunity that we will help him to use to encourage that. There remain serious questions. We are all pleased to see the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) here 10 years after his operation; he referred to some of the difficulties with the detail of the contract for difference. Many other hon. Members referred to the capacity market and other things for which some detail has yet to be given.

I can anticipate some of what the Minister, a seasoned and erudite contributor to the House, may well say in response this evening. He will doubtless quote Dickens, Churchill, Burke or Disraeli—if we are lucky, more than one of them. He will indicate his own brand of energetic commitment to the Bill and say that he is working with officials, industry and stakeholders to hammer out the detail to which I have referred. Yet a failure to fill some of the gaps in such a significant Bill, leaving it all to secondary legislation, will prolong the period of uncertainty.

Were the Minister able to offer publication of some of that secondary legislation in draft in Committee, Members on both sides would find that extremely helpful for effective scrutiny. At the very least, Ministers should be able to ensure that the impact assessment is updated before Committee and made available to Members; I have raised the issue directly with the Minister and his officials, but it is important to get that on the record to ensure that there is a commitment to assess properly the impact assessment that needs to be updated.

It is in the best interests of the country that the Bill should leave the House in the best possible shape. The Minister prompts me, just by his presence, into recalling the words of Disraeli:

“The world is governed by very different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.”

I anticipate keenly my behind-the-scenes encounters with the Minister and hope that he will not disappoint me in taking into account the many issues that have been raised not just by Opposition Front Benchers but by Members across the House during the debate.

It is a pleasure to be taking part in the final debate of the year on Government legislation before Christmas, before many of us spend time with our friends and families—and in my case, no doubt, a daily dose of Peppa Pig. Christmas is also a time of year for reflection. Given the pace of our work and proceedings in the House, we often do not get much time for the luxury of reflection. I therefore conclude by genuinely wishing Ministers a happy Christmas and expressing the hope

19 Dec 2012 : Column 956

that during this period they will have the opportunity to reflect on the issues raised by Members across the House and come back reinvigorated, refreshed and ready to engage in those issues so that we can ensure that this Bill does the job that many of us want it to do.

6.50 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Mr John Hayes): Labour Members really are keen now to emulate us as the party of one nation, because we heard the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) quote both Burke and Disraeli. I do not want to disappoint him, so I will start by quoting Mark Twain, who remarked,

“what is a man without energy? Nothing—nothing at all.”

It is in such energetic spirit that I begin to sum up this important debate. Let me say at the outset that we will certainly make the revised impact assessment available before scrutiny starts in Committee, and we will certainly, in the spirit in which I intend to conduct the Committee, make available draft material of the kind that the hon. Gentleman described so that, I hope, all members of the Committee get the chance to shape the Bill, as he suggests.

Let me give the hon. Gentleman another quotation—

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): Will the Minister give way?

Mr Hayes: Not until I have quoted Ruskin—that would be premature—but I will do so immediately afterwards.

“The first duty of government”

according to Ruskin,

“is to see that the people have food, fuel, clothes. The second, that they have means of moral and intellectual education”—

and who better to intervene on the subject of moral and intellectual education than the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr Field: On Ruskin’s point that people should have fuel, the Government estimate that 4 million people are in fuel poverty. To what level will that fall if the Bill becomes law?

Mr Hayes: As I hope the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are committed to helping low-income and vulnerable households to heat their homes affordably. As part of our work to redefine fuel poverty, we have announced that we will publish a refreshed strategy for tackling it in 2013—he will know, too, that that is the first such strategy since 2001—because we want to ensure that resources are used as effectively as possible. I will be more than happy, following his intervention, to go back to my Department and recommit to that, because I share his passion for the vulnerable. I have little power over food and clothing, although I will continue to do all that I can to make the case for moral and intellectual education. I can certainly say with confidence that the Government, through the Bill, will enable the market to provide the fuel that we need.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Dan Byles) and the Secretary of State himself said that the Bill has been warmly welcomed. I appreciate the broad welcome that it has been given by hon. Members across the House, including by shadow Front Benchers.

19 Dec 2012 : Column 957

It deserves such a welcome because it provides a framework for certainty to bring heat to homes, light to lives and power to the people, as the Secretary of State made clear in his opening remarks. Most importantly, it ensures a future where the needs of the many, not the interests of the few, drive energy policy. Our utmost priority is that consumers get secure energy at the best prices.

Let me say a few words to my old friend, the right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher). It is true that nuclear power is part of our strategy, but not at any price. Some of the things that he suggested are well outside what would be the acceptable range in the interests of taxpayers. I cannot say more, of course, because this is a commercial matter, but I just say again: not at any price.

The Bill will, in the terms that the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) described, bring about unprecedented investment. That is necessary simply to ensure that supply meets demand. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) said, the certainty that comes from long-term contracted prices also reduces the cost of capital, which is vital. As the Secretary of State observed, this is a growth Bill. It will bring jobs and investment to every part of the UK, by providing a boost to the energy industries through developing the low-carbon supply chains that my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) said were so important to his area, as to many others.

I ask hon. Members to reflect on this: when we speak of infrastructure investment, we frequently speak of housing, transport, roads and rail, but let us from now on ensure that whenever we speak of infrastructure investment and macro-economic policy, we speak too, largely and loudly, of the importance of energy. That is something that can unite the whole House.

I share the passion of the shadow Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (John Robertson) for a more plural and more liquid system. I agree that, under the system that will be devised as a result of the Bill, the energy marketplace will need to be more competitive, because it is through that competitiveness that prices can be driven down. It is curious—I will put it no more strongly than that in the interests of creating a consensual approach to the Bill—that the Labour party should say that, given that the number of energy companies fell from 14 to six on its watch.

It is still more curious that Labour Members are advocating a return to the pool. I do not agree with them about that. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Don Valley says that it is a different pool, but she will know that the National Audit Office has said that in effect, despite lower input fuel prices and reductions in the capital costs of generating, the pool—which was abandoned by the Labour Government, not ours—meant that consumers paid higher prices than necessary. There are real questions about the gaming that takes place in a pool situation and the effect that that has on consumer interests.

Dan Byles: A number of Members mentioned carbon capture and storage during their speeches, and my hon. Friend has done a lot of work in this area. Does he

19 Dec 2012 : Column 958

think that we will realistically see cost-effective CCS programmes in the foreseeable future?

Mr Hayes: My hon. Friend will know that the CCS cost-reduction taskforce reported just a week ago and concluded:

“UK gas and coal power stations equipped with carbon capture, transport and storage have clear potential to be cost competitive with other forms of low-carbon power generation, delivering electricity at a levelised cost approaching £100/MWh by the early 2020s”.

That is not my conclusion, but that of the independent taskforce. By the way, the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) is right that CCS can and should include coal. It is absolutely right that, in the long term, we should consider gas and coal as low-carbon technologies, alongside renewables and nuclear.

This is a framework for certainty and secure investment, a commitment to rejuvenate our infrastructure and an understanding that, with a mixed economy of generation, we are most likely to build sustainability by building resilience. We grasp that this is a growth Bill that offers a chance to deliver jobs throughout the whole country. Changes have also been made as a result of the scrutiny of the Energy and Climate Change Committee. There has been a proper process whereby the Committee’s considerations on things such as the counterparty body have been taken into account, considered and acted on. The Bill has been framed on the basis that it will not merely be legislation for this Parliament, but an Act that can help us to inform the future and, in the words of the right hon. Member for Don Valley, shape our destiny.

Some will say that the Opposition, in tabling a reasoned amendment, are dancing on the head of a pin, but I want to defend their Front Benchers. It is true that they are dancing—the choreography being more Sid Owen than Cyd Charisse—but they are trying to occupy a space on narrow ground, because they know, in practice, that the Bill will deliver the kinds of reforms that they would also seek in government. They know, too, that they share the Bill’s purpose, which is to deliver safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy for future generations. I welcome the chance to shape the Bill to that purpose in Committee.

The spirit that the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West proposed should enliven all we do is a spirit that I share, and I invite Members to reject the amendment and to support the Bill in that very spirit—the national interest and the common good that drives all we do.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House divided:

Ayes 206, Noes 279.

Division No. 127]


6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Curran, Margaret

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Galloway, George

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Qureshi, Yasmin

Reed, Steve

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Lindsay

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wood, Mike

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Tom Blenkinsop


Nic Dakin


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Hayes, Mr John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hurd, Mr Nick

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Miller, rh Maria

Moore, rh Michael

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Teather, Sarah

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Walter, Mr Robert

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Robert Syms


Mark Hunter

Question accordingly negatived.

19 Dec 2012 : Column 959

19 Dec 2012 : Column 960

19 Dec 2012 : Column 961

19 Dec 2012 : Column 962

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 62(2)), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Business without Debate

Energy Bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Energy Bill:


1. The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 12 February 2013.

3. The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Consideration and Third Reading

4. Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

6. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading.

Other proceedings

7. Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Question agreed to.


Queen’s Recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Energy Bill, it is expedient toauthorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—

(1) any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State by virtue of the Act,

19 Dec 2012 : Column 963

(2) any expenditure incurred by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority by virtue of the Act, and

(3) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other enactment.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Energy Bill, it is expedient to authorise—

(1) provisions by virtue of which persons may be required to make payments, or provide financial collateral, for the purposes of, or in connection with, enabling—

(a) a CFD counterparty to discharge obligations in relation to CFDs;

(b) a settlement body to meet its costs in carrying out functions conferred by or under the Act;

(c) a CFD counterparty, an investment contract counterparty or the Secretary of State to discharge obligations in relation to investment contracts;

(2) the imposition of a levy in connection with the certificate purchase obligation;

(3) the imposition of fees under the Act;

(4) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.

In this Resolution—

‘CFD counterparty’ and ‘CFDs’ have the same meaning as in Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the Bill;

‘settlement body’ has the same meaning as in Chapter 3 of that Part;

‘investment contract counterparty’ and ‘investment contracts’ have the same meaning as in Chapter 5 of that Part; and

‘certificate purchase obligation’ has the same meaning as in Chapter 7 of that Part.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 80A(1)(a)),

That if, at the conclusion of this Session of Parliament, proceedings on the Energy Bill have not been completed, they shall be resumed in the next Session.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Question agreed to.

European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)).

EU Development Assistance for Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 14531/12, European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No. 13/2012: European Union Development Assistance for Drinking Water Supply and Basic Sanitation in Sub-Saharan Countries, and No. 14028/12, Commission Staff Working Document on Humanitarian WASH Policy: Meeting the challenge of rapidly increasing humanitarian needs in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); and welcomes the Government’s approach to developing WASH policy within the European Union.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Question agreed to.

19 Dec 2012 : Column 964

Portland Search and Rescue Helicopter

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Goodwill.)

7.14 pm

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): It is a huge honour to speak in this debate, and I should like to start—[Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. Would Members leaving please do so quietly, so that we can hear the Adjournment debate?

Richard Drax: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

This campaign is not just about one MP. Other hon. Members are here for the debate and they are equally concerned about the future of Portland’s search and rescue helicopter. We represent tens of thousands of people along the south coast who are worried, many of whom have campaigned tirelessly in the past months to help me. This is a team effort and I pay tribute to, and thank, all who have contributed to the battle to save our helicopter. It would be negligent of me not to pay special tribute to all crews of search and rescue helicopters in the United Kingdom, and in particular to ours in South Dorset.

I will begin by telling a story about a fishing boat called the Purbeck Isle. Sadly, it sank recently and we lost three young fishermen. The search went on for three days non-stop and could only be carried out effectively by helicopter because the search area was so huge. The helicopters had to refuel a number of times. If it were not for the Portland base, they would have had to fly some 21 to 25 minutes to Lee-on-the-Solent before refuelling and coming back. That would have meant being away from the search area for at least an hour. The current water temperature in most of the United Kingdom means that people can survive for about 10 minutes before they become unconscious, and 30 minutes before their core is so cold they die—those are the maximum times.

I remind the House that the initial funding for the helicopter came from the private finance initiative, which was cancelled by the coalition Government in February 2011.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work he has done, and I join him in supporting all the crews who work so tirelessly to keep our seas safe. Does he agree that the mess the previous Government made of that PFI deal—the fact that decisions were not made then—is why we are confronted with this awful situation today?

Richard Drax: I agree with my hon. Friend to a certain extent, but when there was an earlier attempt to remove the helicopter, my predecessor was able to keep it because of PFI. In those days the Government were able to throw more taxpayers’ money at retaining it. Sadly, I am not in that position. The proposal has been put out to contract under the Official Journal of the European Union, which states certain key user requirements. As long as those requirements are met—at least theoretically, and that is the point—the Department for Transport assumed that no consultation was necessary. The previous

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Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), wrote to me and said that no consultation was necessary because she was “improving the service”. That presumption was criticised by me and many others. It has now been criticised strongly by the Select Committee on Transport, which has called on the Government to rethink their proposal.

The Portland helicopter operates in one of the busiest areas in the UK, and 25% of all coastguard call-outs come from there. It is illogical to close a base in the middle of all the action and rely on those further away. Cover should surely be provided close to where it is needed. Portland is only a 12-hour base, yet it compares favourably with its 24-hour neighbours—Solent, Culdrose and Chivenor. In 2011, the call-outs were: Portland 194; Solent 210; Culdrose 249; and Chivenor 272. Its helicopter is being called out as much as helicopters at the 24-hour stations.

Furthermore, the costings were wrong. When I first got involved, the Secretary of State assumed that the Portland base cost about £9 million a year to run. It does not. It is a 12-hour base and costs between £4 million and £5 million. If the Government think they will save money by closing the base, let me tell them that the money spent on diving casualties and flood rescues this year alone would pay for multiple helicopters. Portland costs half the amount of other bases and does almost the same number of taskings. That important point bears repeating.

The flying times were also wrong, and this relates to what the then Secretary of State was told by her advisers. The flying time from Culdrose to Portland is 48 to 54 minutes. If we add 15 minutes—the key user requirement to get the helicopter off the ground—we are looking at about 63 minutes. The flying time from Solent to Portland is between 21 and 25 minutes, plus the 15 minutes, which makes 36 minutes. The flying time from Chivenor to Portland is 37 minutes, plus the 15 minutes, which makes 52 minutes. That is on the basis that the air is still, conditions are perfect and no wind is blowing. As we all know, helicopters are not called out to rescue people unless something has happened—normally in stormy weather. In the sea, a person has 10 minutes before they are unconscious—that is the maximum in current sea temperatures—and 30 minutes before their core temperature drops and they are dead. Not one of the proposed helicopter bases would meet that time. All the people in the water—children, mothers, grannies, whoever—would be dead.

The other helicopters—at the three other bases I have mentioned—are as busy as ours. The point I have made repeatedly to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) is that one helicopter can only be in one place at any one time—however new, however fast, it can only be in one place at any one time. So if the Lee-on-the-Solent helicopter, and we will have to rely on that, is called to the east of its basing area, we can add to the 21—or 36—minutes at least another half hour or even an hour because that is how long it will take to get back to its base, having completed its task, to refuel and to come to us. And the people in the water? They would be dead.

On concurrent call-outs—when the other helicopters are in the air at the same time as ours—I have

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documentation proving that, in the past 14 months, the Portland helicopter responded to 21 incidents at the same time as the Solent helicopter. My helpful and moderate letter from the Under-Secretary, dated 17 December, includes a table on tasking concurrency. It lists the call-outs for Lee, Portland and Chivenor in 2009, 2010 and 2011. According to these figures, tasking concurrency happened three times in 2009, once in 2010 and once in 2011. Why, then, do we have other figures stating that on 21 occasions the helicopter at Lee-on-the-Solent was in the air and doing a task at the same time as the Portland helicopter? Something is seriously wrong, and I urge Ministers to look at the modelling, which I believe is fatally flawed. Someone somewhere has got their maths wrong.

Over the past 10 months, 25 out of the 32 transfers to Dorset county hospitals were so life threatening that the Civil Aviation Authority regulations were waived so that the helicopter could land at the hospital. According to Department for Transport figures, every road death, which equates to a water death—it is the nearest we have got—costs £1.6 million. On the basis of those figures, we save about £40 million by having the helicopter at Portland. If the Government needed any lessons on saving money, that is a pretty stark example.

Sadly, all this is being compounded by the proposals to close the maritime rescue co-ordination centre. They, too, are criticised by the Select Committee. The local resilience forum is particularly concerned. The Government said there would be no cuts to front-line services. I wonder what these are: no emergency towing vessels in England or Wales; no offshore firefighting capability, because the marine instant response group was withdrawn; a proposal that more than 50% of the co-ordination centres should go; and two helicopters going—ours and another—reducing the number of bases from 12 to 10. If these are not front-line services, I would love to know what the definition of a front-line service is, because to me that is the very coal face that the search and rescue capability depends on.

It is not just search and rescue that our Portland helicopter is involved in. It also works with the police and the ambulance service—yes, we have a charitable air ambulance, as do many counties, but it is small and does not have a winch. Without a winch, it can land only at certain places, so on many occasions the Portland search and rescue helicopter is called to help. The air base played a major role at the Olympics—TV companies, VIPs, business; you name it, it was used. Then there are pan and mayday alerts, and let us not forget the Channel Islands, which are also in the Portland helicopter’s area of responsibility.

I would like to thank the Under-Secretary, —he is not the Minister currently sitting on the Front Bench; it is hard to track the right Minister down when trying to fight one’s case—for his letter. To be fair, he has seen me and listened to me, and when he got his facts wrong about the timing from Culdrose to Portland—he initially thought it was 21 minutes, until I said, “By Concorde, yes,”—he wrote a helpful letter saying that the flying time is actually 48 minutes. These are fairly serious errors.

Those on the Front Bench are very intelligent, capable men and women, but I urge them please to come down to Dorset and listen to those involved in search and rescue along our coast. I am a former soldier, and I

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cannot think of any major decision where one would not appreciate what one was about to do beforehand. It is military training; it is civilian training; it is what we all do—we make an appreciation. To do that we must go on a reconnaissance mission; and to do that we need to go up front as a commanding officer and look over the land that we are about to move over or perhaps the hill that we are going to attack. We do not just sit there in our bunker, look out and say, “Onwards men! There’s the hill! Go and take it! I’m having some breakfast”—and off they go and they get slaughtered. That is what happened in the first world war.

It is that important. I cannot request enough—it must be at least three, four or five times now—that someone comes down to Dorset and listens to those intimately involved. I do not pour scorn on civil servants—they have a very important role to play—but sitting back in Whitehall pressing computer buttons, playing with their modelling and making pretty circles on maps is not really the way to come to a logical conclusion. If someone came down to Dorset and listened to people—this is another thing that really appals me—they would find that they are frightened to speak their minds. Why is that? Because if they do, they will lose their jobs. Is that not unbelievable? In this democracy of ours, in which millions have died to allow me to stand here and speak, the people who should be giving the Government the proper advice that they need are too frightened to do so, because if they do, they will lose their jobs. That is utterly outrageous.

Let us for once, as a Government, stand up and start leading. I say this: “Come down and listen. Listen, and listen. Do not talk; you can do that when you get back to your office. Listen, and I am convinced that once you have done that, Ministers will change their minds, or at least will start thinking about the whole process again.”

In a letter to the Government, the Transport Select Committee said:

“There are understandable concerns that the withdrawal of these bases will lead to…increased fatalities”.

The Under-Secretary took the view that that was entirely different from saying that lives would be lost. I have to disagree: temperate language was rightly used to a Government Department by a responsible and highly influential Select Committee.

Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. The issue that he has raised is very important throughout Dorset. Although none of my constituency is on the coast, my constituents are just as concerned as my hon. Friend about the potential for fatalities. Let me reinforce his point that it is essential for someone to come down to Dorset and observe, for example, our lack of roads.

Richard Drax: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the lack of roads. We live in a beautiful part of the land, and helicopters provide the only way of reaching people who need help quickly. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that half my constituency is at sea, and that “at sea” is a dangerous place. Millions of people use our coastline, our seas and our cliffs. They dive under the sea and they boat over the top of it, and all that generates tremendous activity.

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In Fareham, one of the new maritime operations centres is to replace our co-ordination centre in Weymouth. At present, people who live locally get out of bed and, as they have done for many years, look out of their windows, see the rain, look at the sea, and get a sense of what is going on. Because they know the area, when something happens they are able to target the right asset immediately. They will know, for instance, that the field by Durdle Door is so boggy that a four-wheel drive will not get there at this time of year, so they must get the helicopter out.

What will happen if, during a busy bank holiday weekend, that huge MOC—with at least 40 staff—is bombarded by calls from people all along the south coast saying, “We have a child here, a mother there, a lilo somewhere else”? I predict that there will be utter chaos. That is another part of my constituency that I am trying to save, and I urge the Government to think again about an issue that is very dear to my heart.

I want to be generous, and to give the Minister as much time as possible in which to respond. Some Ministers—dare I say—stand up and read from a written script which, for eight of the nine minutes available, repeats what we all knew already. I should be very grateful to the Minister if he answered my specific questions. The first is this: will someone come down to Dorset and listen? If no one does, the consequences will be absolutely terrible. My invitation to a Minister to visit South Dorset was declined on the basis that it was

“important that the procurement proceeds as planned.”

I submit that, as it currently stands, it must not, because if it does, lives will be lost. I have been around long enough not to make such a statement loosely or lightly. I say it with the backing of those who are in the know, and who speak to me in the dark of night for fear of speaking out loud. They predict we will lose five, six, seven or eight more people a year. That many people each year will be dead if we do not have our helicopter. That is all because the Government are relying on modelling from miles behind the front line, rather than having the courtesy, if nothing else, to come down to Dorset and listen.

Will the Minister tell me how many search and rescue stations he has visited? How many helicopter crews has he spoken to? How many co-ordination centres has he been to? Talking to the crews and visiting the centres is the best way to learn what this is all about.

Finally, I thank the air crews—especially ours in Dorset—for the incredible bravery they demonstrate in the job they do. My aim is not to be a belligerent Back Bencher. I am supported by tens of thousands of people, as well as many colleagues, who believe the Government have got this badly and seriously wrong.

7.36 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): In the seven or so minutes my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) has left me, I will try to respond to all his points and questions. I congratulate him on securing this debate and recognise his strong and genuine interest in this matter on behalf of his constituents and the wider public in Dorset and elsewhere.

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I am responding today in place of my ministerial colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), who is in Brussels attending the Transport Council. Therefore, to answer one of the questions put to me, I have visited no search and rescue stations, as it is not part of my portfolio to do so. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has visited any, but I imagine that if he has not, he will want to do so, as he is very keen to discharge his responsibilities in a serious manner.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset recently met my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, and he referred in his speech to the letter that followed that meeting, issued on 17 December. I am pleased that he received a copy before this debate, because it deals with many of the points he has raised. As he will know, therefore, last year approximately 23,000 responses to incidents were co-ordinated by the coastguard service, many of which were responded to by the service and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Search and rescue helicopters responded to approximately 2,500 call-outs. I pay tribute to the brave men and women who often undertake challenging operations in treacherous conditions to save lives.

As I do not have much time, I will not bother the House with a run through of the history of the service. I should point out, however, that the oldest of the Sea Kings used in search and rescue entered service in the early 1970s, so the fleet is clearly nearing the end of its useful life. As a result, the military are withdrawing the Sea Kings and their personnel from search and rescue in 2016, and, as the most recently awarded coastguard helicopter contracts expire in 2017, the Department for Transport is running a procurement to put a new, modern, state-of-the-art contracted service in place for the whole country, to be managed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Helicopter technology has developed over the past few years, and we will put in place a new service that benefits from those technological improvements. The new service will therefore utilise a full fleet of state-of-the-art aircraft. These aircraft will provide greater reliability and faster flying times to many more locations than the current military helicopters. The Department is determined to provide at least the same level of service as now, but in the current financial climate we must also consider the most cost-effective way to achieve that objective. That has led us to decide to alter the basing arrangements for the service. The increased capability of modern aircraft will enable us to move from 12 bases to 10 and provide at least the same capability as today while reducing costs.

We chose to prescribe 10 bases with 98% availability. We could, according to procurement and other experts, have had a lower figure but we have settled on 10. That enabled us to ensure that the future service would be at least as good as the existing capability and not endanger life by risking an overall increase in response times. My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset referred to the statement from the Select Committee and, to be fair, read out the response. In linguistic terms, “having a concern that the withdrawal of bases will lead to” is not

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the same—I agree with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary—as saying that that will be the inevitable consequence of any change. Clearly, the impact on the capability of the service and the ability to deal with incidents has been foremost in the Department’s mind in considering the future configuration of the service.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): Will the Minister give way very briefly?

Norman Baker: If my hon. Friend does not mind, I will not, as I have been left seven minutes to try to respond sensibly to a debate. I am very sorry and will happily take any interventions in a subsequent debate—if that is technically possible—when I or my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will respond.

This is obviously a matter of concern in South Dorset, but the Department is confident, as our independently verified analysis shows, that the arrangements we are putting in place will provide a comprehensive level of coverage that will not compromise our ability to reach persons in distress. Furthermore, the future service will bring substantial overall benefits to the country as a whole. It will require helicopters to be airborne within 15 minutes of being tasked during the day and to have a minimum availability of 98%. Within 60 minutes, the fleet will be able to reach all areas in the UK where there is a very high or high risk of incidents occurring, and modelling shows that average flying times to incidents would improve by approximately 20% under the future arrangements.

Currently, approximately 70% of high and very high risk areas within the UK search and rescue region are reachable by helicopter within 30 minutes. Under the new contract approximately 85% of the same area—therefore more of it—would be reached within that time frame. I recognise that Portland is of particular significance for my hon. Friend and other colleagues on the Government Benches. I am advised that approximately 5,000 coastguard co-ordinated incidents are handled by the Brixham, Portland and Solent coastguards annually, but over the past three years, an average of 214 a year required assistance from the Portland helicopter—that is about four a week. Other bases operating Sea Kings have performed up to double the number of taskings in a year, so it is not unreasonable to expect that neighbouring bases with modern helicopters would be able to respond to future incidents that Portland might respond to today. Indeed, other bases already do so at night because, as my hon. Friend said in his opening remarks, Portland only operates during the day.

It is of course true that a helicopter, however modern, can only be in one place at a time, but there are three other bases in the region, all within reach of the areas the Portland base often flies to when responding to incidents. Of these other bases, the closest are Chivenor and Lee-on-the-Solent, just 20 minutes from Portland.

Richard Drax: Will the Minister give way for just one second?

Norman Baker: I will, as it is my hon. Friend’s debate.

Richard Drax: Will he answer just one question, because—dare I say it—I have heard all this before? Will he guarantee that someone will come down to Dorset to listen?

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Norman Baker: I was trying to respond to that point. His request has been clearly heard and I shall pass it on to my colleague the Under-Secretary and to the Secretary of State. It is their responsibility to deal with this issue and they will make a judgment, but he has made his point very firmly and I am sure that it has been heard by others in the House, too.

Let me try to deal with one more point before I run out of time. Over the past three years, Chivenor and Lee-on-the-Solent have been tasked at the same time as Portland on only five occasions. He cited the figure of

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21, but I am advised by officials that the concurrent tasking figures to which he referred were from the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre, the RAF tasking authority, and relate to three bases—Portland, Chivenor and Lee-on-the-Solent—not just to one. That might account for the difference in figures to which he referred—

7.44 pm

House adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 9(7)).